This Ain't Your Mama's 2017 Christmas Letter

I love Christmas carols.  I always have.  But I don't honestly think I've ever really listened to the words of "We Need a Little Christmas".  The music is so upbeat that I didn't realize the song is about discouraged people.

"Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute..."

and later:

"For I've grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder..."

Friends, can the Sparks relate!  Well, maybe not the part about getting leaner.  But 2017 has been an eyelash in the eye.  A paper cut on the thumb.  A blister on the heel.  A lego to the bottom of a bare foot.  You get the picture.

In February, Chuck lost his job with Sam's Club, a company he had been with for 26 years.  To say this rocked our world was an understatement.  But two weeks after receiving his termination notice, he accepted a position in a brand new field.  Now, sadly, we find ourselves in December back on the job hunt.

In March, I received a diagnosis of Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Cell Carcinoma.  Breast Cancer.  I endured 4 surgeries (two for infections from the first surgery) and 12 rounds of chemotherapy in the months that followed.  Due to the merciful hand of God and good medical care, the surgeons believe there is no cancer remaining, and in the next few months I will finish up infusions and kiss the negative side effects goodbye.

In the second half of the year, we grieved with friends and supported others through challenging situations.  I have worked on improving my writing and growing my readership, which has been rewarding, but has often left me feeling raw and emotional.  October brought us Shelby's very first ambulance ride for non-stop convulsive seizures.  She seized with very little rest for about 14 hours before the multiple doses of IV rescue meds gave her relief.  She has struggled with seizures more in this, her senior year of high school, than in recent years.  Because of this, we made the tough decision to wean her off of the CBD oil we fought so hard for her to have in preparation for a new drug trial.  Unexpectedly, she was eliminated from the drug trial due to a congenital heart defect we didn't know she had.  We are now being referred to a cardiologist.

Allie, a 7th grader this year, has stayed very busy with volleyball, cross country, choir, church and friends.  We are navigating the uneasy waters of having a near teen the best we can.  For those of you who have gone before us on this path, you will be our yoda in the coming days.

As I prepared to rehash all of this for our Christmas newsletter, I decided we needed a family photo to accompany it.  (I have a very talented sister, Erin Cason of What a Hoot Photography, to help.)  While in the process, we came upon piles of trash bags in a hidden alcove of the park.  I insisted on having an ironic photo taken amidst the trash as fitting tribute to this year.

In a twist of ULTIMATE irony, my purse with phone, iPad, cash, credit cards and driver's license was stolen while we posed for the pic.  Touche' 2017.

Sigh.  To circle back around to Christmas carols, I recently read an article about another one - "Joy to the World", that tied in nicely with the kind of year we have had.  The author stated that, though we sing it at Christmas time, it was actually written about the second coming of Christ.  Under the circumstances, this might be my "theme hymn" for the season.  I have several times prayed recently for the Lord to come quickly.

Verse 3:
"No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found"

After all, isn't that the true hope Christmas brings?  There would be no reason to celebrate a baby who was born 2000 years ago if he wasn't coming back to take us away from this dark, painful and sinful place.  All of nature will sing to Him one day - "fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains."  Our tears will be no more as "He rules the world with truth and grace".  So it's okay if the space around me feels like a dumpster fire, because one day (maybe soon) earth will "receive her King".  And He will be FULLY received.  No hold outs.  No sin.  No disbelief.  No rebellion.  And we will ALL "repeat the sounding joy"!  Hallelujah and Amen.